Coronavirus Update (March 16): Suffolk’s First Two Deaths; County Leaders Exposed

Pictured Above: One of the first two deaths from the coronavirus in Suffolk County was a man in his 80s who had been in isolation being treated at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown.

Updated March 17, 10:40 a.m.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced there are now 84 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Suffolk County in a press conference Tuesday morning at which he laid out the state’s current plan to address testing, social distancing and increasing hospital capacity.

Updated March 16, 4 p.m.

• New York state ordered all bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and casinos to close to on-premises service until further notice as of 8 p.m. Monday. Many local restaurants will still be offering take-out meals (and libations!)

• Southampton and Shelter Island towns have declared states of emergency after Southold, Riverhead and East Hampton declared states of emergency last week, locking down non-essential services. All Southampton Town buildings, administrative offices and community centers will be closed through March 31, and all town meetings in that time frame have been cancelled.  Food delivery will continue for seniors participating in the nutrition program. The senior transportation program will continue as well as the South Fork Commuter Connection shuttle bus service. The adult day care program will be suspended for the emergency period. Transfer stations will continue to operate and parks will remain open to the public. On Shelter Island, all town meetings have been cancelled, except for this afternoon’s 1 p.m. town board work session, which will be a follow-up informational meeting on the coronavirus. The public can view the meeting live here. It will also be aired on Ch. 22 immediately following the meeting. You can call in at 631.749.0391 or email townboard@shelterislandtown.us with your questions or concerns.

• The first case of coronavirus in Riverhead Town was reported Sunday evening, and the town has announced that two of its employees are in mandatory quarantine due to exposure to the virus.

Original Story Follows:

Suffolk County announced its first two deaths from the new coronavirus on Monday in a conference call held remotely because several top county leaders are in quarantine due to exposure to the virus.

County Executive Steve Bellone announced the first two deaths were one of the county’s first patients, a man in his 80s who had been in isolation at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, and a man in his 90s, who had been in hospital isolation at Huntington Hospital. In total, he said, there are now 74 cases of coronavirus in the county.

“We know the people who are most vulnerable are the elderly,” said Mr. Bellone. “We need to work now to reduce the damage and death toll from this virus. Our condolences and sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones.”

Mr. Bellone also announced that his Deputy County Executive, Peter Scully, has tested positive for the coronavirus and he has been recovering at home, while six other members of his staff, including Suffolk County Health Commissioner Dr. Gregson Pigott, are in mandatory quarantine awaiting testing results due to their close contact with Mr. Scully.

Mr. Bellone defined ‘close contact’ as being within six feet of a confirmed infected person for 10 minutes or more.

He said members of his team continue to work from home, including Mr. Scully, who gave permission to reveal his identity and “is doing very well.”

Mr. Bellone said Mr. Scully had initially had chills and a sore throat, but had not had the classic symptoms of a fever and a cough.

“Most of his symptoms have subsided. He remains on home isolation but continues to work and is part of our team,” said Mr. Bellone.

Dr. Pigott, who was on the call, said “I am fine. I have no symptoms currently.”

Mr. Bellone said he is also working from home in self isolation and “limiting my contact with other individuals,” out of an abundance of caution, and he has not yet been tested but may be tested if other members of his staff who had close contact with Mr. Scully test positive.

As of Monday, 21 of the 74 cases in the county were reportedly in Southold Town, but county officials said New York State has not decided whether to designate Southold a hot spot.

Dr. Pigott said the county had focused its testing on Southold because its first confirmed patient came from Southold, and there may be more known positive cases on the North Fork now because more testing has been done there.

“It’s really premature to say we have a hot spot until we do testing throughout the county,” he said.

County leaders had joined with Southold leaders for a press conference Sunday in Greenport announcing that a mobile testing site is coming to eastern Long Island.

But the location of that testing site has not yet been established, said Mr. Bellone, who added that the mobile testing is being organized by New York State.

“We understand the concerns in the Southold area,” said Mr. Bellone. “I think as we ramp up testing we’re going to see the virus has really spread throughout the community. We’ve been in constant contact with Southold officials… The health department is very conscious of that and is going to continue to follow the science and work to get testing ramped up to see.”

Mr. Bellone said that Suffolk County had been considering closing restaurants and bars to on-site service when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Monday morning that bars and restaurants would be closed as of 8 p.m. tonight, along with movie theaters, gyms and casinos.

“We are discussing today ways to make sure that is enforced,” said Mr. Bellone. “We fully expect establishments will comply, and it’s important.”

Read our prior coverage of the coronavirus crisis.

A growing number East End events have be cancelled due to concerns about the possible spread of the new coronavirus at large gatherings. We’re updating our list regularly.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please prove you're human: